December 29, 2014

Loved It: A Little Faith by Emma James + Debut Writing Adventures

Series: Ocean Beach 1
Format: ARC
Publisher: Self 
Source: Author
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Release Date: October 9, 2014
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” ~ Bob Marley

Faith was nearly fifteen when her life was torn apart, she sheltered herself from knowing anything about that fateful day.

Six years later she is older and stronger and has decided to confront this sexy brotherhood of hot men she ignored for her own survival.

Harley, Keanu, Text, Levi and Retro will reveal to Faith all is not what it seems and she will discover the level of strength these friends possess.

She will come to realize the secrets they have all been shielding her from in humorous and emotional ways.

Faith isn’t going back to Dallas in a hurry, not until she can help those that need her the most.

This is a story of new beginnings, a strong brotherhood of sexy guys and a love that has been lost along the way. It is a story with twists and surprises that will tug at your heart as well as make you laugh.

Humor is a weapon that can only last so long until life peels the layers back and what is underneath and hurting shows through.

Faith wasn’t there for them when they needed her, but she damn well will make sure she is now.

Welcome to Ocean Beach.

Sometimes you just have to have A Little Faith.

Reader Note: This is a mature aged new adult/adult contemporary romance with a difference. This novel does not contain abusive parents, on the contrary. There is no mean girl, no rape or abuse or cheating. There is however a brotherhood of guys who will make you feel a whole range of emotions.

This novel does contain strong sexual content for the mature 18+ reader.

What I will tell you is this is a five book series with 2 novella's also added to it. My style is different, readers are picking up on it. I am not just having boy meets girl in each book and HEA, there is more, much more going on. This is a series where all characters are strongly involved in each installment.

This review is different in that it's personal. First I had an opportunity to take a peek on A LITTLE FAITH by Emma James while it was still on the drawing board and had the opportunity to be part of her beta group albeit in a very small way. Next I know the author personally so there's a sense of pride that she created this story. I mean I struggle with reviews let alone a novel and for that alone my hat's off to her; then there's a sense of understanding regarding her creative process. EJames shared with me her vision for her output and that gave me a unique and in-depth view on the story itself; then there's a sense of protectiveness not just because she's my friend but also due to the aforementioned reasons. Yup, this review is subjective and honest so don't think I'm gushing simply because EJames is a friend. 

A LITTLE FAITH has the markings of the usual NA and then some. The heart of the story portrays the aftermath of a tragic event where these Ocean Beach Boys lost a brother after the club they were in was bombed. Fast forward a few years later and Faith, the kid sister of Chance, came to visit with the hopes of getting closure. Unbeknownst to everyone including Faith, she is the heart of the final piece that gets will finally get them to a place of healing. 

The Ocean Beach Boys will pull your heartstrings no questions asked. Each wear their brokenness on their sleeves and its this vulnerability combined with their determination to make something good out of something so tragic that will make you in awe of them. Each has a unique personality that appeals to every reader's preference book boyfriend wise: Harley is sort of the big brother, Keanu the technocrat, Retro the romantic, Text the mysterious brooding one, and Levi the joker. Though they share a common experience each of them were scarred differently, some emotional, another physical, one psychological, and it's their brotherhood and strong camaraderie that keeps them strong, sane, going, and hopeful for something better. On a side note, these boys vaguely resemble The Black Dagger Brotherhood, like they're the new adult contemporary version of our beloved Caldwell vamps. I don't know if it's their strong sense of fraternity or because I know EJames is a fan of Ward's series or what. I feel compelled to mention that somehow.

Faith, to me, is a very interesting person in that her full story is yet to be told but she shared enough about her to validate that she IS a crucial part of this tale and I'd like to see where EJames is going to take her character from here. 

Personally I'm not a fan of multiple POVs for a few different reasons and IMO, A LITTLE FAITH can still have the same impact of it were told from a few or even on 3rd person POV as opposed to almost everyone getting the mic. I think the less voice heard telling the story the more centric and concentrated the plot is. Like the first half is about Faith and her reunion with her brother's friends, etc. and the other half was Retro and Birdie's story. On one hand it's good in the sense that you're sort of getting two stories in one while on the other it felt like the novel was split and so I didn't really get to connect with Retro and Birdie's HEA. However I also understand that EJames is trying to paint a vibrant landscape and positioning her players in a certain way to best draw out their stories.

Lastly, though minor, EJames' storytelling is a little uneven. But because this is her debut novel and all, I'm a little forgiving. I'm sure it'll flow smoothly once she's in full gear. Overall A LITTLE FAITH is a good start, the premise stirring, and one can't help but root for the characters. I especially love how it's not super angsty and overly dramatic, there's enough of that going around, as well as the unique combination of characters she created to bring this tale to life. 

By Emma James

It took me two years from conception to self publishing A Little Faith, the first book in my Ocean Beach series. Some authors can write a book a lot quicker in weeks or months, but I was determined to get it right first time round.

I had a fear of failure.

I wanted to bring my story of a brotherhood of sexy guys to life, but with an original and fresh take on contemporary romance. I needed what was buzzing about in my brain to translate onto paper, the right way. This took much thought and hard work and it was a very steep learning curve for me the closer I got to pressing publish on Amazon. Don’t even get me started on the paperback and what you need to do to get that up and running. It was all a little daunting, but CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

There are forms, I love forms (said sarcastically) to fill out and you will need help with what it takes to bring a story to digital format. I asked author friends for advice and they were more than happy to help a newbie out, they of course had already been through the whole green horn stage. I was this flower waiting to blossom, I just needed to know how to blossom.

Cover art was another thing that had to be conquered. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but hell yeah, readers do. I’ve had the majority express their love for my cover being original and different. I set out to not use photo stock, I wanted an artist and I found the loveliest girl Jemina Venter, who saw my vision and did exactly what I wanted. I needed an artist so my covers were tailored to the characters. Much hidden detail is within each cover. I wanted their poses and facial expressions to relate to the story within. I wanted each cover when put side by side to show a scene. My characters are all going to be on the Municipal Pier in Ocean Beach, San Diego, when the covers are placed side by side it will be awesome. I get very excited to see what Jemina does with my characters. She blows my mind.

Cover art is up to the individual’s interpretation. Some love a cover and some don’t, but it’s the words within that tell the story and readers are noticing my reviews and the amazing response I have had to this group of flawed, sexy, strong and endearing group of men. I feel very blessed that readers are taking a chance on this housewife who had a dream and through a lot of hard work and determination made it happen.

I didn’t just sit down one day and start writing. I Google researched, set up a photo board of characters, I listened to music. I had a bunch of notebooks with ideas and scenes set across the five book series. I went into a lot of thought preparation before I even started typing. I knew I was going to be using multiple pov’s ( point of views ) and my characters were going to be flawed in more ways than one. I had an idea that plagued my brain for years until I knew what to do with it. It didn’t let up.

I plotted and planned and THEN I typed on my old clunker of a computer in my son’s bedroom, (for that is where the desktop resides) for eight months straight.

I hear authors talking of the wonder of a MAC computer, I have a 7 year old computer but you know what, as long as it has software you can write a book on, it doesn’t matter. A computer was not stopping me from getting this story down.

I had my sweat band on each day and typed my heart out and then I went over and over and over my work trying to find what was needed. I layered my characters and it shows in reviews the depth I went to. I breathed my characters in, they are an extension of my family. I wanted readers to care about them as much as I did.

I was now getting closer to the finish line, but I wanted feedback. I wanted to be criticised because I knew if I didn’t get the feedback beforehand, the readers would let me know. I wanted my book to be worth the hard earned cash that readers are willing to spend on a book. It was Beta reader time. I handpicked 3 Beta readers who I knew were well read. I chose one in USA, UK and Aust, for A Little Faith. My UK Beta reader is a god send, she reads my manuscripts three times. First time as a reader, second as a reviewer and third time... she checks under the door mat.

To be a Beta reader for me you have to be as honest as the day you were born. I listen, I ponder feedback and I eventually think up a solution if the feedback calls for it.

Louise my UK Beta reader made me laugh as much as I made her laugh. I loved all the feedback she gave me about making her laugh, cry and what?, I received from her. She told me to walk before I ran. I badly wanted to hang onto a 3000 word section of my manuscript. I held on for dear life and in the end it took me a few weeks to concede, but she was right. I was trying too hard to tell too much. This section needed to be in the second book and it fits perfectly.

Beta readers who are honest and well read are a valuable asset to an author. I have Beta read for many authors and I know it takes time and effort.

There is also the editor to seek out and connect with. I wound up with two ladies who are a team and work hard to get those commas in the right place and my sentences shiny. I thought I had it looking pretty darn awesome before I gave it to them. It did come back colourful...LOL but they did say it was by no means the worst one they have edited.

Then it was time to get the book ready for the various digital platforms and paperback. I chose to pay a formatter. Formatting a digital book and paperback are different. I personally think any new author should set money aside for a good editor and formatter.

I set aside $2000 for my first venture into the writing world to cover the costs for editor, formatter and cover designer. I didn’t have much change from this figure because I secured five covers with my cover designer. I also had to get banners made for various postings and places like facebook. I wanted to be as professional as I could afford to be.

Do not expect to make that money back in a hurry. Again some authors do.

The enormous amount of work it takes to write and release a book is lost on the reader, and also the amount of marketing an author must continually do each and every day to ensure their book is not lost in the ocean of new releases popping up every day of the year.

I was totally blind to the amount of administrative work and marketing that needed to be done. I soon learnt. There are banners to prepare, teasers, giveaways, takeovers on blogs, promos of your work. Then there is the time spent speaking to bloggers and hoping you can convince them to give up their valuable time to take a chance on you on top of their already full schedule. If you haven’t got a name for yourself, this is a difficult task indeed. I’m only now starting to feel that it is getting a lot easier convincing a blogger to take a chance on me as I have such positive and amazing reviews. Do not give up, just take the small wins and they will all add up eventually.

I thank all the readers and bloggers from the bottom of my heart who initially did not hesitate to support me. I am forever grateful to them as they just gave me a chance and without them, it would have been a much tougher and exhausting road.

I read and appreciate every review that a reader has taken the time to write no matter how long or short. My reviews have been so positive and it makes me smile when readers have enjoyed my story. It makes all the hard work and the continual hard work once the book is released that much sweeter.

Reviews are so important for a debut author. I know so many readers purely want to read a book and then move on to the next one. Writing a review does not interest them and that is cool. This is why I want to throw my arms around the reader who writes a review and thank them so dearly because without reviews, my job as a writer would be so, so, so much more difficult. Imagine trying to sell a book that hasn’t been reviewed.

What I’m so pleased about is all the reviewers have left the twists and spoilers out of their reviews. My guys all have secrets and the story starts one way and swings in another direction. I’m so happy that the reviews have also allowed the new reader to discover what the blurb is far from telling you. I too wanted to let the reader discover for themselves. Spoiler blurbs are not my cup of tea.

I poured my heart and my soul into A Little Faith. I wanted the characters to connect with the reader and to have depth. I love that readers have a favourite guy or they can’t make their mind up, it means I did my job. I spent a long time getting these characters to be real and different.

Some authors soar to great heights when their book is released and some take a little longer to find their wings. A Little Faith is finding its wings and I’m so ever grateful to every reader and blogger that took a chance on this debut author and discovered a story that made them laugh and maybe cry too.

I’m still the same housewife and mother of three children, but now I have found what I have been looking for in my life. I never really knew where I belonged. This is where I belong. Writing is a challenge, it is hard, it is exhausting and only a writer knows the lengths we go to, to bring a story to life. But when I get those excited messages from readers who want to talk about what they love about my book... it just makes my heart smile.

It’s never too late to follow a dream.

Emma James

I’m swiveling back and forth, searching the crowd for Harley.
“Hey, short stuff.” A deep voice slices into my thoughts from over my right shoulder.
I slowly turn around, meeting Harley’s smiling face. I may have been short once, but now I am five-foot-eight, not exactly below-average height.
I take in Harley. He’s tall—six-four, at least—and gorgeous with light brown, short hair; tanned skin; and does he have some ink work on his arms? I’m normally very curious about tattoos, but now isn’t the time to look.
I know I’m looking him up and down, but it’s been so long, and he has changed. The softer boy features have been replaced by a big, muscular, chiseled man.
I swallow.
“Wow, is that really you, Harley Madden?” I’m drinking him in. I don’t remember Harley being so big and buff. His charcoal t-shirt molds tightly to his chest like a second skin. He wasn’t this muscular the last time I saw him. His belted, black jeans and boots complete his handsome look that has quite a few people in the crowd appraising him. He looks a little dangerous in his dark clothing. He would make Will purr like the cat who got the cream. I must admit, even I’m a little taken back.
He leans in and grabs me in a bear hug, lifting me off the ground, leaving me a little breathless. My face is nestled in his neck, catching his scent of cologne and soap.
“Okay, big guy, you can stop squeezing the life out of me now,” I try to breathe out. He loosens his hold and slowly let’s go while I take a step back.
“You look amazing, Harley.” I find myself smiling. It feels good. I was worried about feeling awkward meeting Harley again after so long, but something just clicks. He was my brother’s best friend, and I’ve known him all my life. “It’s been a long time.”
“I could say the same about you. I might have to start calling you Faith.” He flashes me an amused grin, showing me perfect, white teeth and a dimple.
The baggage carousel starts up and everybody squeezes in tighter, trying to jockey for a position to get their luggage when it appears.
“Whoa!” I’m already beginning to feel less nervous having Harley here with me when I’m suddenly knocked off balance. Harley’s left arm snags me around the waist, bringing me up against his hard side. He shoots the person beside me a dirty look. Some people really do need to chill out when they travel.
I step away from him when I notice my case coming towards me.
Harley stops me with a gentle, firm hand on my arm. “I’ll get it for you, which one?”
With one, bright blue suitcase and camera bag in his hands, Harley walks me out the sliding doors of the airport and we cross to the parking garage.
The sun is shining, and my grey hoodie jacket is making me too hot. I unzip it, taking it off as I’m walking, revealing a tight white tank top. Much cooler.
Harley is staring at my chest and nearly trips over. I roll my eyes. You can never take the boy out of the man.
“Harley, are you finished staring?” I laugh a little at the look on his face. “So I grew up.”
“You certainly did,” he mutters and looks away. I could have sworn I heard him swear and mumble something about guard duty.
As we approach his vehicle, I'm stunned. wow! Harley has a black Hummer. I do my best to hide how surprised I am.
Harley stows my luggage in back, and then we climb in and set off.
The Hummer suits Harley; he is such a big, masculine guy.
“Beautiful car. Where to James?”
Harley slides on a pair of vintage aviator Ray Bans, giving me a superstar smile that is a heart stopper. “La Jolla. I have a place up on Vista De La Playa.” Harley then assures me we will be at his place in less than half an hour with the lunch time traffic.
The radio is playing Florida Georgia Line's “Cruisewith Nelly. I put my sunglasses on, roll my window down, prop my right arm up on the open window, and hold onto the outside of the car. I can’t help tapping my fingers and nodding my head to the beat, quietly singing along as the breeze blows my hair free.
I can see Harley out of the corner of my eye, stealing glances and smiling.
We don’t talk, although it’s not uncomfortable. I think we both have a lot swimming about in our heads. I’m simply taking it all in, while he knows why I’m here. He knows this isn’t easy for me.
I pull my phone out of my bag, take a quick snap of the coastline, and text Mom and Dad, attaching the pic. I let them know Harley has me, and we are heading to his place now. I then send Will a text and tell her I’ll chat in a couple days when I have something to tell her. I don’t hear back straight away.
Holy shit is all I can think the closer we get to Harley’s place. The view of the beach is incredible. As we drive higher, I’m itching to get my camera out and ask Harley to pull over so I can take some photos. We are driving past some beautiful homes, overlooking the coast. It's not long until we make a turn, and then he drives up a long driveway towards an unbelievable looking place.
“You sure you got the right address?” I know my mouth is gaping open.
Harley looks over at me then reaches out, gently pushing my chin up so my mouth closes.
“What did you do? Rob a bank!”
Harley lets out a full blown belly laugh, which makes me turn and stare at him. “No.”
Wow! The Hummer and now the house, or what I would call a freakin’ big, two-story, contemporary mansion. It’s beautiful.
And the view!
This is when I realize I don’t really know anything about Harley and where these guys have all ended up.
He sobers up, and I see him looking at the black and chrome Jeep Cherokee parked farther up the drive. His hands grip the steering wheel while his jaw tenses.
What now?
Something tells me I’m going to be meeting the guys sooner rather than later.

“So, is this the girlfriend, the ex-girlfriend, or the guys?” I joke because that’s all I know how to do when I feel cornered. 

Coming 2.2015
A LITTLE FAITH is on sale for only $1.60 for a limited time!

Emma James lives in Queensland, Australia with her smexy husband, three children and a big black Labrador. Life is busy and most entertaining in the James household.

Writing has been a part of her life for many years. Life was getting on and it was time to put her fears aside and do what she does best. It was time to show readers what she was made of, take that leap off the diving board and see where it takes her.

Emma is a creative person at heart. She loves to read as much as write, devouring books into the wee hours of the morning.

Who needs sleep, right?

Stalk Emma
Facebook | @emmajamesbooks | Goodreads


  1. I hope the next book will be even better, and even ;)

  2. This was a fabulous guest post (really heartfelt!) and review! I loved them both!

  3. I've been trying out new New Adult authors and stories this past year and I like the sound of this story. The cover is captivating.

    Emma's story of becoming a published author is upbeat, honest and makes me want to really cheer her on mostly by reading her stories.

    Enjoyed the review, special post and introduction, Braine.

    1. Anybody's dream is good an if it's shares with others it makes it even better. Cheer on!

  4. A beautiful guest post! I'm liking what I'm hearing about this series. Great review Braine!

  5. Reading a friend's book is intimidating. Reviewing it is downright terrifying. I commend you for your candour, honesty, and fairness, Braine.

    On a side note: whelp. Those boys, tho...

    1. Thank you, so happy you understand how nerve wracking this was for me.

  6. I seriously digging her covers and the inspirations for her characters...niceeeee!

    Even with the story being uneven, the premise sounds promising. Great review Braine :)

    1. First book humps, I'm sure she'll polish it in the next book.

  7. I love books that have characters with such strong bonds. Even more than the romance aspect at times. This sounds really good. And great guest post. I'm too lazy to put all that work into doing something like this. Or more accurately, I'd lose interest halfway through. lol.

    1. The relationships amongst the characters is very touching, hard not to get into it

  8. It's so hard to read a book from a friend but it's awesome when it ends up being so good. Sounds interesting.

  9. Great guest post! Lovely review Braine :) And the Journey it's making me want to give this book a go.

  10. Thank YOU !! Matey!! Yes, I have known Miss Braine through cyberspace for a few years now and it is hard getting a mate to read and review. She did an awesome job too.

    I am so blessed that nearly all the readers to date have loved my guys. I did try to be different and I am trying to step outside the box a little and that may take a couple books for readers to get my style. I appreciate every review that lands on Amazon and Goodreads as it helps this newbie out so darn much. I will be continuing my multiple povs and the continuing story of each character. The buck doesn't stop at the end of each couples book. It is a little different what I am doing but it is the way it came out of my head. Retro and Birdie have much more to tell us over the course of the series and same with the other characters.
    I have to admit I did not even cross my mind BDB lads and what I was doing as I can't even fathom putting my brain where J.R goes. I bow down to her. But if readers liken my lads to a contemporary version...well that can't be a bad thing but in no way did it even cross my mind when writing. They are legends and amazing to read. Keanu is my funny bone and I find him very very easy to write because we have the same humor. I am writing Hope Is Lost now and hoping I bring justice the second time round to my characters as I put EVERYTHING in my heart in. I am pickie about my writing as I am a realist and know this was my first rodeo. I am just amazed and it is very confidence boosting knowing the amount of 4, 4.5 and 5 star reviews I have to date. I've read everybody's comments and thanks for taking the time to read my guest post. With everything I do I try to be as honest and just lay it out there. What you see is what you get with me.

    Emma James

  11. Oh yes she is a really sweet person and I always love to speak with her so I totally understand. I haven't read the book and I'm still not sure if it's for me but I would be curious to try. Plus I'm so happy Braine that you enjoyed it so much! It sounds so well done. Great review!

    1. Start with the excerpt and take it from there :)

  12. It's so cool that you got to beta read this title, and watch it grow by leaps & bounds along the way. I'm not familiar with this author, but she sounds like a real pleasure to work with. This is why indies & self-pubs deserve love too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and James journey!

    1. So true! I've always taken for granted how the book's made, doing this certainly added perspective :)

  13. Actually, you got me with the Bob Marley quote in the blurb, Braine! And I think it's great that you're reviewing the book written by one of your friends! You did a very good job, too - I know it's not easy but you were still able to tell us about the little things you think could have been different / better.
    I hope the last few days of 2014 are amazing :)

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    1. I appreciate your feedback. It sure is hard and I hope she took my review with a grain of salt.

  14. Hmmm... I am curious, I like the whole thing with the brotherhood, but I am so burned out on NA right now, that I don't think I could handle this at the moment. I will watch for your review of book two.

    1. Take your time, when you're ready to jump in hopefully this makes your list

  15. I'm glad that you enjoyed EJames' debut as much as I did, Braine. It's nice to see your opinion since you're close to her. I hadn't thought of the BDB similarity but you're right - and I like that comparison and element of the story. I'm really looking forward to Hope is Lost.

    1. Text was the one who had me comparing, he's a lot like JM in that he can't talk then Keanu like Zsadist having scars/deformities. Then there's the whole brotherhood relationship. I think it's a good thing, Ward is impossible to resist and she IS a trend setter in a lot of ways.


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